21st Century Reviews

You liked Roaring Jack, you might like some of the recent releases reviewed here!

16 November 2006

Blyth Power - Fall Of Iron (Downwarde Spiral, 2006)

This review by Daniel James was originally posted in August 2006.

Blyth Power - Fall of Iron (Downwarde Spiral DR012CD)

It’s now four years since Blyth Power’s last album, On the Viking Station, came out with promises that it would form the first part of a trilogy. Since then the band have had their time taken up with various distractions such as doing acoustic sets in folk clubs and, more alarmingly, having babies. As a result gigs have been few and far between and there has been little news of parts two and three. So for Blyth fans the long-awaited release of Fall of Iron is a real cause for celebration.

A bit of background for anyone who’s unfamiliar: Blyth Power came into being in the early eighties when Joseph Porter, after a few years playing drums in bands of a mostly anarchist punk persuasion, started putting together one of his own. Taking their name from diesel engine no. 56134, Blyth were soon established as one of the most eccentric bands around, describing themselves as a cross between The Clash, Steeleye Span and the Rubettes(?). Since then they’ve had twenty-four members and recorded fourteen albums, and Joseph (now the only survivor of the original band) is still going strong. As well as his vocals and drums the current line-up includes Joseph’s brother Jerry on bass, Steven Cooper on guitar and Annie Hatcher on keys.

From the very first notes this is unmistakable Blyth, Joseph’s impassioned vocals supported by relentless guitar and close-harmony backings as they roll and crash through a voyage across the North Sea oilfields. As always the subject matter of these songs is wide-ranging and unusual and the lyrics are vintage Porter, perhaps on the wordy side but always memorable. ‘Where the backfisch roll in whalebone strakes/The heaving timbers groan/To pour on troubled waters/Out here to hand there’s oil enough for two’. It’s typical of this band that while the title track was inspired by the Kosovo war this is no straightforward protest song but an account of the war narrated by a world-weary bomber pilot.

Musically this album ranges from the punk-rock ranting of ‘Born in a Different England’ to ‘Cynthia’s Revels’, a poets’ drinking song which bounces along to Steven’s acoustic guitar and Annie’s accordion and quite literally demands that you join in with the chorus. (Listen to it and you’ll see that I really do mean literally!) Blyth Power’s distinctive take on folk music is best demonstrated by ‘Endgame’, an impressively menacing ballad which is also a bloodthirsty sequel to ‘The Raggle-Taggle Gypsy’ - complete with Whack-fol-a-day fol-a-diddle chorus. It may have been a quiet few years for Blyth but this has been well worth the wait, and for anyone who doesn’t know them Fall of Iron is as good a place as any to start.

Fall of Iron can be ordered from the band’s website. I think this is UK only, but apparently it will also soon be available from Townsend Records who (I think) can ship to anywhere.


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